Las Vegas. Sin City. Rack City. All of these names are more than appropriate. That’s because Las Vegas is not a single-faceted place. Are you surprised? Because I sure was.
The circumstances surrounding my trip to Vegas were rather unusual. I was there for spring break with my mother (who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer), my father, my younger sister and my uncle who doesn’t drink. Oh yeah, and I was only four months shy of turning 21. Not exactly a “normal” trip to Vegas by any stretch of the imagination. As a result, I learned that the city and its surroundings has a lot more to offer than booze, sex and gambling.
So what are the different sides of Vegas?
First, we have the normal family vacation side of Vegas. Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot to do in Sin City without all of the “sin”. There are day spas and fancy workout facilities, good restaurants, shops, museums and pools. I got to see the Bodies exhibit and relax by the pool at my hotel. You can tour the Hoover Dam, and hike or helicopter in to the Grand Canyon. For adventure seekers, there is always indoor skydiving. At night, while everyone else is boozing it up, you can enjoy one of the many shows that Vegas has to offer, like Cirque Du Soleil or Penn & Teller.
Then there is the kitsch side of Vegas. With its fake Venetian canals, leprechauns, men on stilts walking the streets and a hotel shaped like a giant Egyptian pyramid, Vegas is not exactly the epitome of sophistication. It’s more like a Disney World for adults.
But then on the other hand you have the expensive and chic side of Vegas. The Venetian and the Bellagio, two of the most famous hotels in Vegas, are actually quite fancy and expensive. They are also filled with high-end stores like Armani, Versace and Louis Vuitton. The really good restaurants aren’t cheap either.
There is also the foreign side of Vegas. The numbers of foreigners I encountered in Vegas shocked me. I have no idea why it was this way, but it was a pleasant surprise.
Then of course there is the stereotypical drunken mess, gambling addicted, Hangover version of Vegas. Some of what I witnessed was funny, some depressing and some just plain annoying.
Along the strip, on every block, there were men and women handing out stacks of cards with pictures of naked women on them, phone numbers and prices. And every so often a billboard truck would drive by, covered words like “Hot babes straight to you!” Despite my dislike for the concept and practice of prostitution, I quite enjoyed the atmosphere of sexual nonchalance. Even the waitresses at the nice restaurants and the bartenders at the fancy casinos wore skimpy outfits. It was fantastically weird!
I was more disturbed by the gambling that I saw. Slot machines are an inescapable sight in Vegas. They even have them in grocery stores and airports, so you can start gambling right when you get off the plane and right before you leave to go home. I’m talking about slot machines in the actual terminal gates and in baggage claim, not in some separate room. In order to get to your hotel room, each hotel makes you first walk through its casino. It’s every gambling addict’s dream come true — or his biggest nightmare.
We had to wake up at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning in order to make it on time to our helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon, and I saw a woman sitting at a slot machine with a drink in her hand. Let me repeat that. 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning. And she had clearly been there all night.
The annoying side of Vegas debauchery turned out, not surprisingly, to be the drunk people. Not just any drunk people, but fat, balding, middle-aged men. I was sitting at the pool at my hotel trying to read a book, surrounded by families with children and other people trying to enjoy themselves, when a group of about ten of these men decided to get into the pool. They were screaming, swearing, flirting with college-aged girls (who would only stay and talk long enough for one of the men to buy them a drink). It was disgusting. And the bartenders didn’t cut them off either. They were behaving worse than college students.
Now that I’ve been to Vegas and seen how many different types of people go there, I find myself wondering how they can all coexist, and how all the different sides of the city don’t clash with one another. It’s like a different world, a place where normal laws and societal norms were forgotten. This is why no matter what type of person you are, you should try to visit Vegas at least once in your lifetime.